A second half masterclass saw Aston Villa gain a vital win over Bristol in bottom of the table clash.
An important Barclays FAWSL match awaited us on a chilly winter’s night in Bath. Bristol City, desperate for their first league win of the season, hosted Aston Villa. It was a tie in which the winner would make a big early claim to avoid relegation this season.
The hosts came into the game buoyed by a solid 1-1 draw with Reading at the weekend in which they arguably scored one of the goals of the season. Tanya Oxtoby retained the same starting line up from that game, with Ebony Salmon leading the line alongside Emma Bissell and Charlie Wellings, and Naomi Layzell partnering Gemma Evans in central defence.
Villa, on the other hand, made two changes after defeat to Manchester United at the weekend. Young England prospect, Asmita Ale, replaced Ella Franklin-Fraiture at right back while Nadine Hanssen took the place of Sophie Haywood in attack.
It was Bristol who started the better of the two sides. They have tightened up in recent games and the counterattack is beginning to click. The pace of Salmon and Wellings on the end of long balls forward caused the Villa defence multiple problems and both created several half chances.
But as has been the story of Bristol’s season so far, they were unable to make their moments of pressure count and the visitors grew into the game as the first half continued. Emma Follis and Hanssen were being afforded plenty of space down the flanks and produced crosses that were crying out to be converted.
It finally came in the 42nd minute when Follis robbed Flo Allen down the left side. She broke into the box and sent a low ball across the face of goal for Ramona Petzelberger to poke home.
Bristol had a chance to equalise immediately after the break but a lack of luck and finishing combined saw Elisha N’Dow scramble the shot clear off the line. From then on, Villa, and in particular Shania Hayles, stole the show.
“She’s gaining a lot of momentum. She’s growing in confidence week by week. She had a very good game at Man United and it was only a matter of time really before she found the net.”
GEMMA DAVIES ON SHANIA HAYLES
The 20-year old turned on the motor and put on a performance to make England viewers stand up and take note. She was too strong for Layzell as she broke onto Follis’ pass and squeezed an angled shot under Sophie Baggaley in the 57th minute.
Ten minutes later, she turned creator. Speeding down the left, she found Petzelberger in the box to turn it home unmarked. It was almost a carbon copy of her first of the night.
Hayles added another with 15 minutes left to play to deepen Bristol’s misery. The impressive Follis found the Villa striker in the box who made no mistake in drilling it low into the back of the night. It was a performance to be proud of from Villa; a clear sign of progression as they move into the second half of the season.
“We scored the first goal at the right moment. What a moment to score and go 1-0 up and to go in at half time with a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum. I think coming out into the second half, naturally it lifts the team. They were more willing to make runs in behind and more willing to find the spaces and make sure we hit the right areas.”
GEMMA DAVIES, ASTON VILLA HEAD COACH